To the dismay of many, events now colloquially known as plague raves are happening all over the world—even with the threat of an ever-worsening global pandemic looming overhead. Countries like China or Vietnam that effectively neutralized their COVID problem are having actual disease-free raves which Westerners witness on social media. Countries like America or Italy have not faired as well in disease prevention and for the most part look on in jealousy as club-goers across the world get their kicks.
The response of most folks—at least the Americans I know—has been to virtually attend raves via their computer. After nearly a year in the throes of COVID, there are plenty of online dance parties and music festivals to attend. Dirtybird—a popular house and techno label out of San Francisco— has a weekly lineup of rotating DJ’s and regular shows going most of the evening. Movement Festival in Detroit puts on occasional weekend long “festivals” that you can attend for free in the comfort of your living room. Sure, this simulacrum of the rave experience isn’t what we all want, but obligations to our fellow man make it the best option we have.
I want to avoid inflecting a total moral polarity on the decision whether or not to attend an in-person event during the pandemic, but that is hard to do. To me, plague ravers seem at best ignorant—or uneducated—of the situation at hand. Worse, some of them don’t even care. However, at the very bottom of the “ethical pyramid” are the people who organize these events and promote them by exploiting everyone’s deep desire to go get nasty in a club or muddy field somewhere. It seems reasonable that a particularly social person would break quarantine or safety restrictions to attend a party. After all, they’re not the one throwing it—it’s going to happen anyway—but to overlook the real human lives at risk when you let a whole lot of them breathe on each other for 6 hours is more than neglectful, it’s manslaughter.
DJ’s aren’t off-the-hook either. I’m not talking about local, small-time DJs who barely make enough money DJing as it is. I’m talking about the rich, plane-hopping assholes who play the plague raves to cut another check. In America, our first glance at the plague rave came early on in the summer when The Chainsmokers threw a party in the Hamptons. Understandably, people were upset. The practice of pandemic partying, however, has really taken hold across the Atlantic as well as in Mexico.
The Twitter page Business Techno has put together the best chronicle of the 2020 COVID raves and the DJ’s who play them. Amelie, Nina, Marcel, Loco Dice.—some of the biggest names in the business are publicly promoting and playing these parties, seemingly without shame. They use excuses like “all proper protocol was followed” or “people just need to party” and become defensive when confronted about it. These people are all doing something they feel that they need to do, but the truth is they don’t need to do it at all.
I’m not trying to say that everyone should just be cool with never going to a rave again, but that’s not going to happen. What I am saying, though, is that people—especially famous DJ’s—can endure a relatively brief period of not being able to go out dancing to reduce the infection rate of a deadly disease. It may feel like it sometimes, but going out to the the club or to a music festival isn’t actually the thing keeping you alive. Doing drugs, drinking and wearing glitter on your face certainly isn’t helping either, and the fact is the most important part of the experience, the music, is still there.
A virtual music festival is not the same as a real one and it never will be, but that’s OK, because virtual music festivals are not forever. Consider the death toll of the pandemic already and ask yourself if you really can’t wait any longer—because most of the world has to. Flying somewhere where restrictions and guidelines aren’t followed cannot be justification enough to do so. In fact, it’s a privilege! Maybe it’s not the buzzword you wanted to hear, but the privilege of plague raving is apparent. Many people have lost family members, jobs and their savings. Many people wouldn’t even consider going out to a rave in a time like this. However, many people also don’t seem to mind exacerbating these problems.
It’s on the promoters not to organize them, it’s on the DJ’s not to play them, but it’s also on you to not attend plague raves. You just don’t need to go out the same way that some people need to not have a disease that destroys their respiratory system. Don’t wait until a nurse is shoving a tube down into your lungs to have second thoughts, it’s definitely not worth it. Just buy a strobe light get some loud speakers and do some [redacted] in your living room.